Ziggy is a 5-year-old male Springer Spaniel. He has had apparent sound sensitivity since the time L. acquired him when he was 3 years old. He may also have generalized anxiety.

K. D. is Ziggy’s trainer and will apply counterconditioning.

Ziggy is afraid of the low battery chirp of the smoke alarm, and also gunshots, fireworks, and some buzzers/alarms. Ziggy is OK with a lot of phone and household beeps. But he leaves the room to the sound of the low battery chirp of the smoke alarm, even as heard through a Zoom meeting.

L. would like to condition him to this sound, them possibly the smoke alarm itself.

Plan for “Baseline” Noise

Since two of the iPhone sounds Ziggy is fine with involve musical instruments with decaying sounds (marimba/vibraphone in Reflection and harp in Silk), I have chosen a high-quality recording of a note on the piano, an instrument where the sound also decays over time. The note is G6, 1568 Hz, and is approximately one octave lower than the smoke alarm, and will be longer in duration. (Part of what is typically scary about the smoke alarm low battery chirp is how short it is.)

After Ziggy has been exposed to the speaker and after the process of making food a non-predictor, expose Ziggy to the sound per the instructions in the handout and any additional instructions from K. Remember to have checked the volume level first without Ziggy present. Make the volume moderate. Remember to treat this not as a test (although it is!), but as the first step in Ziggy’s conditioning (which we hope it is!).

As noted in the handout, there are 10 seconds of silence before the sound.

Test Sound 1: Piano Note G6

Piano note G6 with 10 seconds leading silence

Let me know the outcome. If Ziggy is fine with the sound, proceed under K’s direction to do more exposures of the sound, and remember to keep getting the food out sometimes with no exposure so the food doesn’t become a predictor. That’s something that you’ll need to continue to do throughout the process. Dogs jump on predictors, and with sound conditioning there are very few, so the food appearing really will stand out if you don’t also do it at random times.

While you are doing more exposures, I will be creating the rest of the sound series.

If Ziggy is not OK, we will work together to find another test sound.

Good luck!

Results of Test Sound 1 (piano note)

L. reports that “the sound does not worry Ziggy.” This ends the assessment period, and I will proceed to create a sound series starting with the piano note and ending with the smoke alarm chirp of a low battery First Alert alarm.

Sound Series 1 (DO NOT USE FOR NOW)

Sound 1 piano
Sound 2 piano plus sine wave
Sound 3 piano plus sine wave onset trimmed
Sound 4 Piano plus sine wave onset trimmed piano dampened
Sound 5 sine faded in
Sound 6 sine not faded in
Sound 7 not faded in or out (abrupt at both beginning and end)

Notes: the names are descriptive. I used the plain piano sound, then added a sinusoidal wave at the same frequency, but faded out at the end, then trimmed both sounds at the beginning. Then I faded out, then dropped the piano sound, then played the sinusoid alone but with a fade in, then without a fadein, then without a fadeout. The last noise is a plain electronic sound with an abrupt onset and offset, which is characteristic of digital sounds and (I believe) one of the reasons they can be scary. They don’t “act” like most sounds in nature.

Changing Course

L. reports that Ziggy had a negative response to Sound 2, where the sine wave is added to the piano. His response was

…tail down, ears back, and he wanted to climb into my lap (not to lie down and cuddle but sitting up and alert to his surroundings).

I have offered to create a sound between Sound 1 and 2, which L. would like. I have also offered to change the pitch so we don’t get any bleedback of his fearful response to Sound 2.

New baseline sound coming shortly.

Test Sound 2 (not yet a series) Piano Note B5

Here is our new baseline note. It is B5, a bit lower than the previous piano note. If Ziggy is OK with this, I will re-do the series, making the addition of the sine wave more gradual.

Test sound 2: B5 on a piano

L. reports that:

B5 is a good sound w a good response from Ziggy.  You can proceed with the sound series.  

She and K. have also requested a version of B5 with a short lead time of 5 seconds. I’ve added it below. Future sounds will have that lead time.

Test Sound 2.1 ( with a 5-second lead time)

Piano B5

When you are ready: Test Sound 2.2 with sine added

This will potentially be the next sound in the series. There is an electronic tone added but at a very low level and shaped to mimic the decay of the piano sound. (There is still a 5-second lead time.)

L. replied:

Ziggy is responding well to test sound 2.2I think it is safe to say you can build a series on that. 

Sound Series 2

This sound series takes us from inaudible electronic sound added to a point where the piano and the electroni sound are about equal. If he is OK with this series, then we will continue on to pure electronic sound.

First sound is test sound 2.2 that you’ve been using. In this series I am raising the volume of the digital sound **very** slowly. I can’t even hear the difference until Sound 4 or so. Even at Sound 8, when the sounds are about equal, it doesn’t sound nearly as digital as the second sound of the first series that we had to stop.

Remember that if Ziggy doesn’t notice a difference between one sound and the next, in other words, if he responds as positively to Sound 2 as he does to Sound 1, you don’t need to do as many repetitions. We hope I am splitting **more** than we actually need to. On the other hand, since he does seem sensitive to electronic noises, we don’t want to rush through this part either!

That’s my two cents; I’ll be interested to see how you handle it.

Sound 1 (TEST SOUND 2.2) B5 plus sine at -10dB quieter
Sound 2 B5 plus sine at -8dB quieter
Sound 3 B5 plus sine at -6dB quieter
Sound 4 B5 plus sine at -4dB quieter
Sound 5 B5 plus sine at -3dB quieter
Sound 6 B5 plus sine at -2dB quieter
Sound 7 B5 plus sine at -1dB quieter
Sound 8 B5 plus sine at 0dB quieter